Beat Drum, Beat: Hundreds Rally for John White

Hundreds of people rallied on Saturday in support of the black man convicted last month in the killing of a white teenager on Long Island.

The rally in front of the Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead featured Reverend Al Sharpton and was supported by NAACP Long Island Chapters and the Nation of Islam's Harlem Mosque. It was attended by people from various ethnic enclaves on the island.

Speakers called for an over-turn of Mr. White's conviction and also the arrest of the young men who came to the White family home one night in August 2006. They had threatened to kill Mr. White's son Aaron, responding to a false rumor about Aaron White saying he would rape a white woman. One of these men, Daniel Cicciaro, who was drunk, was killed when he attempted to take a handgun from John White. Background on this story.

Bob Zellner of the Eastern Long Island N A A C P considered what would have happened if the roles had been reversed.
“There is no way in the world that a white person in the same situation as Mr. White would be charged and convicted of that crime”
Susan McKeon Steinman spoke to WPKN radio for the South Country Peace Group of Patchogue. Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King she said we can't separate our moral concerns: those about peace and racial justice. Ms. Steinman says the John White case IS about race.
“We are living in the one of the most segregated counties in the whole country We have had people driven out of their neighborhoods; interacial couples and black families in neighborhoods which were perceived to be“white”
Asked why she was there, Becky Genia of Shinnecock said her people know about racism:
"Speaking as an indigenous person, as a Shinnecock Indian, we have been facing racism since 1640 so we know how devestating it can be for families"
John White, convicted of manslaugher but free on bail, with his wife Sonia by his side, spoke to the crowd.
“I never wavered in my commitment to obtain equal treatment and justice for all persons.... I have complete faith that the day God spoke of through the prophets will indeed arrive when justice shall roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream“
Reverend Sharpton praised Sonia White for her fortitude and he spoke about winning the fight for justice.
"Don’t worry Ms. White. There is a judge in February but there’s a God that sits higher than the judge. And the God we serve sits high, but he looks down low. And he wipe tears away from our eyes and he’ll make a way out of no way. The arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. And if we stand together, if we walk together, if we march together, we can win.”
But White's attorney Fred Brewingon says obtaining justice for a black man in Suffolk County is a "virtual impossibility"

“I have come before this system and said “Be just to John White”. But in this situation, in this place, in this county, right now, as long as I can see , it will be a virtual impossibility."
Brewington urged the crowd to show up at future court dates to see that justice is done.
"When there are court appearances we need to fill this court house. When there are other rallies we need you there. In the African history there’s a term that says ‘Beat Drum, Beat”. You need to beat the drum, you need to tell the story, because what happened to John White could happen to you tomorrow - and you would want someone standing up for you, wouldn’t you?"
Adapted from the WPKN news report of Monday January 7 heard on WPKN 89.5 Bridgeport and WPKM 88.7 Montauk at 6:30 pm